Northwestern hopes for some ‘SavageCats17’ on defense

By Astasia Williams

Meet the new Northwestern Wildcats. Or #SavageCats17, as they have been dubbed by @NUFBFamily, the Wildcats’ twitter feed.

The Wildcats officially added 24 newcomers Tuesday: 17 high school scholarship players, one graduate transfer, and six preferred walk-ons. There already are two early enrollees on campus.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said there was an emphasis on defense for this year’s class.

Here is a look at some of the top players.


The highest ranked player in this signing class is four-star defensive end Earnest Brown, from Aubrey, Tex. Brown was a 2017 U.S. Army All-American. He was rated the No. 6 defensive end in the nation by 24/7Sports. He finished his senior year at Billy Ryan High School with 80 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and three forced fumbles to lead the Raiders to the Texas 5A state semifinals. Brown is a three-sport athlete, also competing in basketball and track and field. He was a Texas High School Coaches Association Academic All-State honoree.

Defensive tackle Sam Miller from Houston arrived on campus for the winter quarter of 2017 as an early enrollee. He verbally committed in January 2016. The 6-foot-3, 260 pounder is ranked as a Top-20 defensive tackle in the nation and No. 2 in the state of Texas. Miller registered 226 tackles and 20 sacks during his high school career. His brother, Alex Miller, is currently on the roster as a defensive line. Miller chose Northwestern over offers from Indiana, Texas Tech, Colorado State, SMU, UCF and North Texas. He could see playing time next season with his quickness and the loss of C.J. Robbins and Ifeadi Odenigbo.

Trevor Kent, a 6-foot-5, 242-pound defensive end from Pittsburg, Kan, was rated as the No. 1 player in the state of Kansas by 24/7 Sports, Rivals, Scout and ESPN. He also was ranked the No. 15 defensive end in the nation by Rivals. Besides Northwestern, Miller received offers from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Penn State and, Michigan.. Last year, finished with 114 tackles, six sacks, 21 QB hurries, seven pass deflections, two forced fumbles, an interception, four blocked field goals and two block punts

“We always have to do a great job upfront,” Fitzgerald said. “Power-5 conferences are all line of scrimmage leagues. For us to continue to take the steps to be successful on the field, we got to improve on the line of scrimmage.”


The Wildcats only signed one quarterback in the 2017 class. Andrew Marty, who missed all but two games his junior season because of a fractured femur, figures to be in the mix as a potential successor for Clayton Thorton in a couple seasons. He was rated as the No. 3 quarterback prospect in Ohio and the No. 5 quarterback in the Midwest Region by Scout. Marty completed 63.1% of his passes for 5,268 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career. During his senior year, he broke a school-record of 43 touchdowns and only four interceptions. The pro-style quarterback also received attention for his baseball experience. He received a baseball scholarship offer from Xavier.

The 2017 Class:

Chee Anyanwu LB
Earnest Brown IV DE
Blake Gallagher LB
Samuel Gerak OL
Cody Gronewold P
Austin Hiller SAF
Berkeley Holman WR
Bryce Jackson SAF
Jace James WR
Trevor Kent DE
Charlie Kuhbander K/P
Will Lansbury WR
Andrew Marty QB
Kyric McGowan WR
Peter McIntyre LB
Sam Miller DT
Erik Mueller LB
Alex Oelsner SB
Luke Otto K/P
Trey Pugh SB
Cameron Ruiz CB
Rashawn Slater OL
Peter Snodgrass LS
Joe Spivak DL
Ethan Wiederkehr OL

Photo at top:Northwestern Wildcats welcome 26 newcomers for the 2017-18 football season. (Astasia Williams/MEDILL)